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Gettin' the hook-ups 

Do clothes really make the man? By the sounds of several rap singles, gear seems to be just as important to an artist’s repertoire as the lyrics. For instance, the late Notorious B.I.G. said he stayed "Coogi down to the socks." Even Doug E. Fresh rhymed that he was "fresh dressed like a million bucks."

That’s all good, but what about the everyman who desires to sport some of the hip-hop labels seen on the likes of Puffy and Jay Z, but isn’t making records? Detroit players shouldn’t worry. There are plenty of stores stocked with Girbaud, D&G, Rocawear, Sean John and Iceberg in the Detroit area. All you need is a sense of style.

At Four Men in Southfield, the hottestselling gear is Rocawear, followed closely by Sean John and the ubiquitous Guess? line. "Hip-hop wear is what’s happening," says store manager Winford Reese. "Even other traditional lines like Tommy (Hilfiger) and Girbaud have added hip-hop flavor to their lines because it’s so hot."

Reese says Four Men shoppers don’t simply shop for a shirt or pants or a baseball cap. They all buy "hook-ups" – the pants, shirt, jacket and sometimes the cap – all by the same designer. "It must be the same brand," he explains. "Or it’s fashionably incorrect." Other popular brands include Coogi, Gianfranco Ferre, Mecca and Avirex.

Chris Turner, who’s 29 and a frequent Four Men shopper, is wearing a hook-up and has just purchased a Rocawear outfit. "I know I can get whatever I want here," he says. "At other stores, you might find a jacket, but no shirt. I like the hook-up – pants, jacket and shirts."

Four Men is for men, but the store has a smaller section for women with designers including D&G, Sergio Valente and Moschino. Even though Moschino and D&G are the most expensive lines – women’s’ jeans are $245 and jackets are $465 – the designers haven’t gotten it totally right as far as the fit, says Reese.

Mr. Alan’s is known as the "two-for" store and often advertises on television and radio. The Southfield store carries many of the same names as Four Men, but also has an extensive collection of FUBU, Phat Farm and Nautica. The "two-for" specials include most of the clothing in the store, with the exception of some of the more expensive lines such as Guess?, Sean John and Girbaud.

"There’s no one like us," says Reynard Hines, a Mr. Alan’s assistant buyer. "We have dress shoes and anything we can offer for two for $50," he explains. The store boasts an extensive shoe collection with the mandatory ‘gators, as well as shoes by Kenneth Cole and Donald J. Pliner. Hines says Mr. Alan’s fulfills all shopping requirements because the inventory ranges from high-end to low-end, and that keeping hook-ups is the key to satisfying the customer.

But hot equals hot no matter where you shop – Rocawear is flying off the racks at Mr. Alan’s too.

Then, if you can find a parking spot, there’s Strickly Sportswear for men and Strickly Ladies, located on Seven Mile in Detroit. At the ladies’ store, Easter egg-colored Guess? jeans line the walls along with fashions by Meoshe, Mecca and Maurice Malone. Guess? reigns supreme as the top-selling jean at both locations.

The cartoon character Fat Albert is profiled on FUBU’s new line of T-shirts, and Pelle Pelle and Karl Kani both hawk graffiti-riddled clothing. The store also carries big and tall sizes in Phat Farm, FUBU, Karl Kani and Pelle Pelle.

James Ford, a 36-year-old GM employee, says one of the reasons he shops at Strickly is the large selection of African-American designers such as Rocawear and Phat Farm. Ford says, "I try to buy black. I’m tired of Tommy."

Four Men
Tel-Twelve Mall, Southfield
Call 248-355-3660.

Mr. Alan's
10 Mile and Greenfield Rds., Southfield
Call 248-559-7818.

Strickly Sportswear and Strickly Ladies
7 Mile and Southfield Expressway, Detroit
Call 313-534-5110.

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